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10/26/2016 12:00:00 AM


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Cyprus

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reunification

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Foreign Affairs\Cyprus\reunification\Statements
Statements\European Council

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European Council

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Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett

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Snippet Contents:

I appreciate that the Taoiseach has remained in the House, as I realise he is busy and probably in a hurry to leave. I will set aside the normal political debate we might have in a debate such as this and raise a specific and urgent issue on which I hope there can be all-party agreement to take action. It could make a real difference to a very vulnerable group of people.
The Taoiseach is aware, and he referred to it in his contribution, of Ireland's commitment to take in refugees, and specifically unaccompanied minors. The demolition of the Calais "Jungle" is currently under way. There are 10,000 refugees in the camp, including over 1,000 unaccompanied minors who are in serious danger. Fires are raging in Calais as we speak. The last time a part of the Calais "Jungle" was knocked down, 200 unaccompanied minors disappeared, so there is an urgent issue at stake. A group called Not On Our Watch, which is endorsed by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, and Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy and led by a great campaigner for refugees, Gary Daly, is liaising with an Irish woman, Karen Moynihan, who has been working in Calais specifically with unaccompanied minors. This morning it asked Members of the Oireachtas to take action on this and to liaise with Karen to try and save 200 of these young, unaccompanied minors by relocating them to Ireland. This would save them from the serious prospect and danger that they might disappear, as happened the last time, and be subject to trafficking, exploitation and degradation of a sort that is unthinkable for children but which has happened in recent times.
The campaign has drafted a motion which will be circulated to Members in the next hour. Representatives of Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and Deputy Clare Daly's office attended the briefing and have given agreement in principle to sign up to the campaign. We are hoping the Government will sign up to it as well, pass the motion and give a commitment to contact its French counterpart immediately. The motion hopes that the Taoiseach's Department might do this, taking a lead from the top, and contact the French authorities with an offer to relocate 200 of these children. They are currently in serious danger because of the fires that are raging and the potential consequences of the dissolution of the camp. If we act now, we could save and transform the lives of these young, unaccompanied children.
It would not cost us anything, which should be emphasised. We were told in this morning's briefing that 800 Irish families have contacted the Irish Red Cross and said they are willing to take unaccompanied minors into foster care. The families are ready to do this and there is an Irish woman, Karen Moynihan, in the camp who knows the children. She can vouch for their age and knows them personally, so we have a straight direct line to the children who are now in danger. The motion asks that the Taoiseach contact his French counterpart to make this offer, which is in line with our previously stated commitment to give refuge to unaccompanied minors, and asks that Tusla, youth services and other State agencies would co-ordinate with Karen Moynihan to identify these children and get them over here.
It is a very straightforward request, and it is in line with the Government's stated policy and commitment. Whatever difficulties there might be in identifying children in Italy and Greece, we can identify them in this case because we have people who are working with them. The motion will be circulated and I hope the Taoiseach will give serious consideration to supporting it and taking this campaign on board. The motion is from the campaign, not from us. Hopefully, we can sign off on it and get that commitment as soon as possible.